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How can something so small be so good?
Member Name: jammaker49
Date: 30/05/02, updated on 30/05/02 (22080 review reads)
Advantages: Lovely aroma of ripening blackcurrants, Bags of Vitamin C, No scurvy!
Disadvantages: Fiddley to pick
Blackcurrants, (Latin name Ribes nigrum) have the highest level of vitamin C of all fruits. Many fruits and vegetables lose a lot of their vitamin content when cooked, but blackcurrants retain a high percentage of their vitamin C when cooked, so are therefore well worth growing for that reason alone. Leaves can be used in pickles, soups or for herbal tea. The fruit and leaves have numerous medicinal uses, e.g. the juice improves the elasticity of the veins and is recommended during pregnancy and convalescence.
Preparation and planting
Blackcurrants are gross feeders so need a deep, fertile and well-drained soil. It is well worthwhile taking time to prepare the soil properly prior to planting. Dig in plenty of compost or well-rotted manure, and mulch the site to retain water, although do not allow the ground to become waterlogged. The site should be sheltered and sunny. They will tolerate slight shading but the amount of fruit produced will be less.
Plant out in October/November when the soil is still warmish. They should go one inch lower in the ground than they were in the nursery, to encourage new shoots beneath soil level. Plant 4-6 ft apart depending on vigour and whether bushes are upright or spreading. At planting, all shoots should be cut back to a bud an inch or two. Blackcurrants are always grown as free-standing bushes so no support or training is needed. Blackcurrants grow as stooled bushes, which means that they send up new shoots from below ground level.
Blackcurrants have a high Nitrogen requirement. To satisfy this need, feed with 2 handfuls of Fish, Blood and Bone or Growmore in the spring and mulch with well-rotted manure or compost. If growth seems poor give a further feed in early summer.
Blackcurrants produce fruit on wood made the previous year, so in the first year, little or no pruning will be needed, except to cut out any damaged branches. I
n the second and subsequent years cut the fruited wood back to ground level to encourage further strong growth. This is done in late summer after fruiting. As the bushes get older you may find that fewer shoots are produced from below ground level. If this happens, prune out old wood as low as possible just above a young shoot. It is best to work on a three-year cycle,
Currants are more tedious to harvest than other soft fruits on account of their small size and tendency to squash, making the pickers' fingers sticky. This problem can be overcome by picking the whole striggs, making little effort to separate the individual currants. Once at home, the whole striggs (strings of ripe blackcurrants) can be frozen as they are on flat trays. Once frozen, the berries separate easily from the stalks, and can be stored in plastic bags for future use. Blackcurrants do not keep well once picked, so it is better to either freeze or bottle them immediately after picking.
Growing new plants from cuttings is easy. Take six to ten inch cuttings from one-year-old shoots in the autumn after leaf fall. Cut off the unripened shoot tips and stick in the soil. Leave just two buds above soil level. If this is done in the autumn, by the next spring the sticks will have rooted. Remove any berries that may form in the first year. The following spring, dig up the new plants and replant in their permanent position. It will take about 3 years for the plants to reach full maturity, by which time, you can take new cuttings from those plants.
I began my growing with just two mature plants. The first year I took about twenty cuttings, thinking that maybe a quarter of them would root. Boy was I wrong! Every single one of them “took”. The following spring I was begging the other allotment owners to take some from me! I now have approximately fifteen mature plants, and another six immature plants, all from the origi
nal two. As most bushes have a reasonable life span of about 10 years, I will be renewing some of the older plants in the next couple of years.
Ben Lomond is probably the most popular of varieties, and is the one usually sold in Garden Centres. It is one of the most heavy yielding varieties, and is resistant to many of the diseases that the bushes can be prone to.
Laxton’s Giant is an early ripening, frost resistant variety, but it can be susceptible to high winds, so should be grown in a sheltered position. Its fruit is sweet and juicy, heavy yielding, and easy to pick.
Silvergieters Zwarte is a mid summer fruiting variety. The currants are large, and produced in long, easy to pick clusters.
Seabrooks Black will crop even in exposed positions. The fruit is slightly more acid than many of the others, which makes it an excellent variety for jam. The clusters of fruit tend to be smaller, which makes it a bit more tiresome to pick.
Ben Serek is a later fruiting variety, and is more of a dwarf bush than many others. The flavour of the fruit is not as acceptable to some, being on the sharp side.
Ben Tirren is probably the latest ripening variety, with the fruit not being ready to pick until late August. It has a very good flavour, and crops heavily.
Jostaberry is a hybrid cross between a gooseberry and a blackcurrant. It looks and eats like a gooseberry, but grows like a blackcurrant, with berries about twice the size of an ordinary blackcurrant. I have four of five of these, and they make excellent setting additions in making jam, but beware of the thorns when harvesting! They are about an inch long and lethal!
There are obviously other varieties of blackcurrant, but these are probably some of the most well known.
OTHER FACTS ABOUT BLACKCURRANTS
Recent research by recognized scientists has shown that blackcurrants have very high antioxidant activity. An
tioxidants have received a lot of press for their possible role in preventing the degenerative diseases of aging (e.g. cancer and heart disease).
This is because antioxidants help protect against the harmful effects of free radicals and other highly reactive chemicals, which may cause cell damage. Traditionally, this activity has been attributed to the high Vitamin C content but this recent research has now shown that the high Anthocyanin content of Blackcurrants may be the principle source.
Research analysis has shown Blackcurrants to have the following complement of antioxidants:-
Content per 100 g fresh
Vitamin C 160 mg
Vitamin E 1.4 mg
(beta-carotene equivalents) 160 mg
Phenolics 157 mg GAE
The Individual Anthocyanins with Blackcurrants
cyanidan and delphinidin
A number of different methods of taking in these antioxidants have been developed, and they are available in many forms
Blackcurrant Anthocyanin extract produced using alcohol extraction
Dehydrated pure blackcurrant powder
Blackcurrant capsules and tablets with pure blackcurrant powder
Blackcurrant capsules and tablets with pure blackcurrant powder fortified with Blackcurrant extract
Blackcurrant capsules and tablets with a base of pure blackcurrant powder and fortified with blackcurrant extract
Personally, I juice some of my berries, and use the juice to make lollies, or trickle over ice cream, or simply add water and drink! The smell of freshly pressed blackcurrants brings back memories of my youth, when I would wander down East Street Market in Walworth, and stop at the hot drink stall for either a hot blackcurrant, or pineapple drink. It was a cordial as I remembe
r, not a squash, or Ribena, but a REAL blackcurrant drink. I’ve tried everywhere, but alas, it seems unavailable in this day and age.
Well first and foremost has to be the blackcurrant jam! One of the easiest to make because of the excellent setting properties of the fruit. I won’t go into the recipe here, as I’ve already done one on making jam!
Home made blackcurrant cordial
1) Put fruit in bowl and crush with wooden spoon
2) Add about half pint water to each pound of fruit.
3) Cook slowly, crushing occasionally with spoon.
4) Strain through sieve.
5) Add one pound sugar to each pint juice.
6) Cool, and store in sterilized bottles, in the fridge.
7) Add hot or cold water when you want to drink it.
8) It will store safely for about 2 weeks if kept in the fridge.
You can use the fruit pulp left over from the previous recipe to make this one.
1) Press cooked pulp through sieve.
2) Weigh puree, and add one pound sugar to each pound puree.
3) Add a little cinnamon, then stir over low heat to dissolve sugar.
4) Cook for about 45 minutes until thick.
5) Pack in small, oiled, wide necked jars, or individual jelly moulds.
6) Cover with wax discs
I have already done a recipe for strawberry ice cream in another op, so I won’t do another here, simply substitute blackcurrants for the strawberries.
Blackcurrants can also be used with cooking apples to make a tasty pie, or crumble, and together with other soft fruits (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries etc) can form the basis of a cold Summer Pudding.
They can be stewed and added to yoghurt, pureed and mixed into a rice pudding, or simply used as a decoration around a fruity cocktail drink.
When you consider the size of a single blackcurrant, it’s amazing how much goodness you can get from it. Unfortunately, the darned birds thin
k so too! But I’m lucky, I still manage to pick more than they do!
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